Thursday, January 26, 2012
I am always bemused and occasionally amused when we in the Reformation churches get to discussing miracles, more correctly termed, in the original language of scripture, “mighty works of God.”
We seem not to be sure of our ground in regard to these mighty works of God, and are, therefore, uncertain and ambiguous in our comments. Many pastors deliberately and with all sincerity of purpose, move a congregation to inclusion of various "rites of healing” in their worship and spiritual life. Unfortunately, all too often, this is done with a disclaimer that there are no guarantees of healing, thus doing away with any expectation that God will perform mighty works. What's the use of rites of healing if nothing is expected?
The problem lies, I believe, in an attitude that somehow we have some influence regarding the mighty work, that God follows our direction in the matter. However, if the mighty work we seek is not forthcoming, in the minds of many we are judged as not having enough faith. This means that God does not listen to our supplications and act. That is in direct contradiction of scripture and ignores the traditions and practices of the church which have been handed down from generation to generation.
I believe that God always answers prayer, but often not in the way we expect. It is a matter for us to discern God's mighty work, which means we need to continue in prayer daily and regularly so as to receive that discernment.
During my years of service variously as parish pastor, interim pastor, and consultant to congregations in transition, I steadfastly encouraged congregations to seriously consider regular prayers for mighty works of God in their midst. This was accomplished through weekly, or at least, frequent liturgies of word and sacrament (sometimes during Sunday worship, other times during the week set aside especially) with anointing, prayer, and laying on of hands. The results in those communities were at times astonishing, for people discovered that through the proclamation of the good news of resurrection to eternal life, the presence of Christ in the bread and wine of Holy Eucharist, and anointing, prayer, and laying on of hands, that God was present to and with them, and responded to their supplications in many and varied ways, unexpected and sometimes not
Mighty works are not the face of God on a potato, or an image of the Blessed Virgin on the side of a building. These mighty works are not necessarily thunderous cataclysmic occurrences. God's mighty works come, for the most part, quietly in answer to our prayers, and it is our task, having prayed, to be utterly silent and to listen in the stillness for the voice of God.
Richard Hammond Price
© January 2012